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Monday, July 30, 2012

Wish List

Day 212

Yesterday, my husband asked, "What's the first thing you'll buy next year?" Interesting question.

After a long drought, what do you do in a pouring rain? Dance and frolic in it? After a desperate hunger, eat until it hurts? After sleepless nights, sleep a day away? Or, sit back, sigh, and think, "Whew ... glad that's over." Maybe some of each.

In anticipation of the day the floodgates will reopen, I have started a list. Right now the list has things that I feel are missing in my wardrobe and should be chosen with great care. A swimsuit, for example. I am pretty quick to grab a swimsuit or three at TJ Maxx and hope for the best. I am sure I could make better choices.

So, to date, my list includes socks that match, a swimsuit and golf shoes. I am sure this list will grow but hopefully once those floodgates reopen, I will proceed in a thoughtful and careful manner. Yeah, right.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Happy National Lipstick Day!

Day 211

Yes, it's real. Even I couldn't make up "National Lipstick Day" but I certainly plan on celebrating it!

The most popular of cosmetics, the average woman owns seven tubes of "transformation". That's how I think of lipstick- a transformation for your smile. And I believe I own a few more than seven tubes ...

For thousands of years, women have understood that your smile, possibly the first and most noticed thing about a person, can be enhanced with color. The role of lipstick has changed little through the years. At times fashionable, other times outrageous and sometimes even illegal, a little lipstick goes a long way to define your look. A look through modern American history can be marked with lipstick. The dark red favored in the1920s, the deep red worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the 50s, the shimmer pastels of the 60s, iridescent blue and lime green shades from our disco days of the 70s, the mood lipstick of the 80s and the black lipstick of the 90s all mark their place in style history.

I think the most interesting and telling thing about lipstick is the fact that it is not only recession-proof, the sales of lipstick thrive in a bad economy. It's called "the Lipstick Effect," the worse the economy, the higher the lipstick sales. Can't afford a new outfit, splurge on an $8 tube of lipstick. That $8 tube of lipstick can transform how we feel and how we present ourselves to the world. Powerful stuff!

In this no-buy year, I promised myself that although lipstick is a "legal" purchase, (according to my rules) I can only replace colors that have run out or acquire new colors I do not currently own. I have bought 5 tubes this year. 1 of the 5 was a poor choice, the other four, excellent. I chose slightly transparent, barely shimmery summer shades that make me feel fabulous. I may not have new outfits but my lip color screams fresh and fashionable. Viva la lipstick!
Happy Lipstick Day! Treat yourself to a tube of transformation.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Was there a Tiki Bar at Green Acres?

Day 209

In my final "half-way assessment" I'll update about how our day to day eating habits have changed. At the onset of this challenge I knew I would not only have to refrain from gaining weight during this year (so my clothes would continue to fit), but I would try to lose a few pounds so some of my more snug outfit options would work. Weight Watchers was our go-to plan.

My husband read a book after the holidays that examined the quality of food widely available including issues with preservatives, pesticides and mass-farming techniques. It was an eye-opening look at my typical grocery cart. I then read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" (Barbara Kingsolver) which took it a step further by suggesting we learn to eat "seasonally" and buy locally. 

I rarely embark on anything by sticking a toe in the water. With me, it's dive right into the deep end. So, when my husband suggested we revise the kinds of groceries we typically buy, I was ready to clear the back yard to start a farm, live off the land, be sustainable. Join a farm collective. Can tomatoes. Make everything from scratch. Greeeen Acres! I totally see me as Lisa.

Here's where we stand:

  • I do not have a "green thumb". I can grow the basics but I killed perfectly healthy cilantro and parsley, my dill disappeared, my basil got slugs and I'm not sure if it's typical, but my spinach got very funky once summer set in. The great exceptions are my towering tomato plants. Over 6 feet tall, each is laden with pounds of tomatoes. The very first ripe tomatoes made an incredible chicken dish this week. Next year I will scale back and focus on the garden successes which I document on my iPad.
  • I buy organic whenever possible and really watch out for preservatives. The bulk of grocery shopping is done at Trader Joe's.
  • Our meat, poultry, eggs and butter are delivered from a local farm. John Henry's Farm in Millington delivers every other week and the products, all from Happy Animals, are excellent. 
  • I make all of our marinades, salad dressings and seasoning blends from scratch and I'm getting pretty good at it. 
  • We buy local produce whenever possible.
We did indeed lose pounds as we implemented this plan. And then, I discovered something wonderful.
I discovered the joys of coconut rum. Coconut rum is like a sip of vacation. We have found a variety of mixers to add for an alarmingly large repertoire of rum drinks. Rum drinks add pounds, but rum drinks make me happy. I'll just bet there was a Tiki Bar at Green Acres!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 207

I suck at golf. I practice and practice but when it's "game-on" I suck at golf.

Golf is hard. From the time you pull your golf club back to the time the tiny little ball (hopefully) leaves the ground, a million things can go wrong. When it's time to hit, everyone else in your group stops to stare. Add heat, wind, rain, any number of external elements, and golf is really hard.

Last Monday I played in my second official outing of this summer. This time I was lucky (?) enough to join my husband, his co-worker and his wife at a beautiful country club.I am always happy to be included and it's nice to visit with people that my husband works with. I had a bit of difficulty really enjoying the day due to three things:
My outfit.
My shoes.
I suck at golf.

I don't have any "real" golf outfits, probably because I only golf a couple times per year. Once again, the temperature was near 100 degrees which takes any pants choice right off the table. I am left with a stupid "skort". My only "skort" is black and the only decent sleeveless top I have is black, therefore I was something of a heat magnet for my group. My husband insisted I looked great but my stuff is old and definitely doesn't "breathe". At least I found two socks that matched.

The next problem was that every time I got into my "golfer stance" I was forced to look down at my hideous golfer shoes. I fully admit I have attention problems (Oh, look! Something shiny!) but how could anyone concentrate looking at those awful, faux-athletic, grungy looking shoes. Ick! 

And, as I mentioned, I suck at golf. Add that to bad clothes and shoes and you have a recipe for a long, ugly day. Somehow, though, I manged to have fun, shared lots of laughs and hit an occasional decent shot.

Perhaps, I think, it's not the clothes or shoes at all! Perhaps it's not even the the skill. Perhaps it's all about the experience of enjoying a beautiful day outdoors with my husband and friends. Or, perhaps--no --definitely--I will be getting new golf shoes and at least one good golf outfit next year.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

If a Vacation Wardrobe is an Issue ...

Day 201

The front page of our July 18 Oakland Press was interesting! Front page, color photo, headline reads: "Nudists Staying Cool." This is our newspaper, not a trashy magazine. I had to read it. Seems there is a nudist resort in Oxford, Michigan! And, it's a "family-friendly" nudist resort. I just can't wrap my head around it. I had to visit the web site. Like many vacation resorts, Whispering Oaks offers accommodations, camping, swimming and a variety of sports, even nude roller hockey. There are dances. Celebrities visit. There aren't many skinny people (that's from them, not me). And, sunscreen is recommended.

As foreign as this concept seems to me, it is not rare. In fact there are lots of resort scattered around the world ranging from family-friendly to adults-only. I started thinking- imagine how little you would have to pack! No new outfits or fresh swimsuits. No quivering at the luggage check-in counter wondering if your suitcase has exceeded the weight limit. No matching shoes and accessories for each outfit. Just yourself, some flip-flops, sunglasses and a GIANT bottle of sunscreen.

Never mind.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

And More ...

Day 200

Wow! 200 days! I am feeling pretty proud of myself. To celebrate, I will share more changes in my life that are definitely working:

  • My filing system: Like most areas of my home, by bills and documents were poorly organized and often ended up in a pile instead of a file. I did an organization overhaul back in February, used the shredder until I could fill Easter baskets for evermore and promised myself I would file everything properly as soon as it was ready to be put away. It is working! At first I had to remind myself to follow through but it has become habit. 
  • Storage: I organized almost every area in my house and by spring, I was 90% finished. From my bakeware, to serving pieces, to candles to linens, each area has remained organized. I have purchased very little now that can actually see what I have. A little trick I employed was to avoid leaving too much blank space in any one area. My knee-jerk reaction is: see a blank space--fill it! Even if it means things are spread out a bit more, seeing little blank space makes me feel like I have enough.
  • Happy with what I have: I could simply suffer for a year but I am really trying to embrace the situation and be happy with what I have. Sure, I complain (often) but I have many fine clothes that I love to wear. I have not had to pass on any event, activity or gathering for lack of a garment. Although I wear things a bit more often, I notice I am taking greater care of my clothes and shoes. I have even embraced mismatched socks. I can't even believe this one! At the start of the challenge, I inventoried about 8 pairs of low cut, athletic socks. As a result of socks that disappear from the dryer (a completely true phenomenon) and a daughter who borrows them, I am left with 7 socks. Not pairs, just 7 socks. This means that most of the time, my socks do not match. If you have ever heard me chant under my breath, "it's okay, at least I have socks" this is why.
For years I had tried to implement these practices into my life. It took the big challenge to give me the motivation to finally make the changes. Strangely, I have inspired myself to maintain these practices because I am proud of sticking with the challenge. I inspired myself. Even to me that sounds strange.

Monday, July 16, 2012

More Things Working

Day 198

When I set out to stop the shopping, I knew I would have to gain control of my existing wardrobe so I could see what I had to work with. Using the "gather and sort" method, I have organized all of my clothes, shoes and accessories. At this half-way point, I have to report that my organization tactics are working really well!

My closet still looks great. I treated myself to matching hangers for my closet, those lovely, slender, velvet covered hangers from Costco. I highly recommend taking your closet seriously!

My rule is: when I wear something, the hanger leaves the general area to a central area. This way, extra hangers are not accumulating in the hanging area and I always know where to find an empty hanger. When I put my laundry away, I use a hanger from the central area and hang the item where it belongs. Easy-peasy. And it works! For months now, my closet has remained organized and neat. I can easily see what I have. It is really amazing how a simple thing like an organized closet can reduce stress.

My closet has been a disaster for years so this organized closet with easy to use rules has been a real bonus.As I have said before, taking on this challenge has given me a real sense of "I can do it!" "Empowered" is a over-used word (in my opinion), but fitting. I feel powerful!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Young Fashionistas

Day 195

Lucky me! Last night I was invited to judge a fashion show. Not just any fashion show, but the show at the birthday party of my little friend from across the street! That's right, the lovely Sydney celebrated her 10th birthday with close friends, a sleepover and a fashion theme! This is a gal after my own heart (sigh!).

Syd's parents had a "red carpet" at the front door, a light-up runway (courtesy of some cleverly placed Christmas lights) and a rockin' sound track (although I think that was all the birthday girl's doing). As judges we got to watch as each party guest walked the runway in her best red-carpet look, changing accessories with each pass. At the end, we scored each gal with a "Dancing With the Stars-esque" paddle. They all got 10s.

I enjoyed the show while having flashbacks of my own youth. Many summer afternoons were spent parading across the lawn in some configuration of a beach towel. It was amazing how many looks could be concocted with this ubiquitous accessory! Perhaps this is where my love of the sarong originates. I also realized that those of us who love fashion, and I mean LOVE fashion, can't really help it. It starts young. It's part of who we are. I watched the birthday gal effortlessly assist and guide her guests and counsel on style. She chose a fab table theme. She had perfect manners. She wants to be a fashion designer. I completely understand.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

If the Glove Don't Fit (or shoe, or dress, or pants ...)

Day 193

Continuing on the half-way assessment, I am examining what's working and what's not this week. Because my challenge included scrutinizing my existing wardrobe, I have learned some truths about my shopping habits. Yesterday I realized that it really is okay to buy something that just makes you feel good when you wear it. Today I am looking at a much larger part of my wardrobe: the ill-fitting section.

I'll just say it- I hate store fitting rooms. I don't like wrestling with garments in an artificially lit, small confined space and trying to determine if I look fab. I almost always buy and try at home. It's true, you have to have an encyclopedic knowledge of store return polices (I do) and the time to do the actual return (far less fun so never high on the to-do list). A simple "does this fit and is it flattering?" becomes "is it really worth driving all the way back to (fill in the blank) to return this clearance item when I could probably lose 15 pounds in a couple weeks and maybe this color will be in style some day?"

I have a history of buying things that are not right and finding reasons to not return. Why?

  • I don't want to buy the size I need because of the number. Surely I can lose a few pounds.
  • I am buying something because the size number is smaller than my size and it fits even though it's ugly (do they just sell the tag?).
  • I have a picture in my mind of the garment I really want and I buy many versions of "close but no cigar."
  • I need something for a particular event and the ensuing panic leads to judgement issues. (stupid golf outfits)
  • I can't accept that certain styles will never be right for me. (low rise jeans that can't be worn without a knee-length shirt to conceal the inevitable panty flash)
  • The dreaded clearance syndrome.
  • Sometimes I just need the "rush" that a purchase brings.(sad)
  • Poor materials or construction are revealed after washing.
  • There are things that I could wear 10 or so years ago that just don't work anymore.
This issue has become glaringly obvious as I make due with what I have. The ill-fitting, poorly styled, poorly made cast-off pile is growing. The selection of garments that work is diminishing.

Rule 2: There will be two periods of evaluation. All clothes must be tried on in the store AND again at home before tags are removed. I must stop settling for "close but no cigar" and wait to find the optimal style, fit and construction. I'm worth the wait.

If the clothes don't fit- you must not buy ****.  (sorry, it's offensive but it's the best I've got this morning)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Half-way Assessment

Day 192

I think it is important to take this week and assess everything that is working and not working in this challenge. Hopefully this will update and clarify my challenge as I ride down the back of the mountain.

"Half-way" initiates both emotions: "Yay! Over half way there!" and "Oh my, we are half way finished already?" I saw a fabulous Tangerine Tango, strapless, gauzy, longer-in-the-back dancing dress in a store on Saturday and I swear, I seriously considered calling off the challenge. As I have recently admitted, the pain is still there.

I was able to exit the store telling myself I was indeed wearing a very lovely dress. (Not as lovely, but still ...) I don't want these feelings to bust like a swollen dam on January 1 (fortunately it won't be strapless dress season). All this dedication could be swept away in a rush of clothing desire with a single fell swoop.

Using this particular red dress as my magnifying glass, I am trying to figure out the compelling draw. (BTW, I am not including a photo in case you want to picture your own perfect garment) What was it about this dress that took my breath away?
Why was I even in Lohmans? My husband had to stop into neighboring Radio Shack (my least favorite store) so I said I'd look around in Lohmans while I waited for him. Looking back, I was asking for trouble. Lately, I have been avoiding clothing stores. Originally I felt like it was my duty to keep up on the fashion trends but I no longer care. "Trendy" does not seem to be an issue for me. At least there's one thing that's not an issue.
Back to The Dress. First of all, I was attracted to the color. This red-orange shade is so rich and beautiful, reminiscent of the hibiscus, my favorite flower. The fabric was gauzy and swing-y, reminding me of vacation clothes. The style looked like something you would see a Brazilian dancer wear in a nightclub. Naturally, it was also bargain priced at $24.99 at Lohmans. Fact: I have over 10 great summer dresses. Fact: I visit few Brazilian nightclubs. Fact: I did not try it on so I am not sure how perfect it was but I know I would have purchased it anyway.
So what is it? I think that the particular dress in question would make me feel (big thing here!) pretty, sexy and carefree. My husband would notice. I would stride confidently instead of blending in to the sea of graying wise women. In that dress I see a young spirit, an unapologetic passion, an opportunity to rumba at any given song note. Glistening red lips, a flower in my tousled hair and not a care in the world. Imagine, a dress could be all that.
I see now why I would snap that dress up. Not the latest fashion or perfectly fitted designer garment, just something that makes me feel carefree. I am mustering all the logic I can right now and I really see no reason to pass on that dress (next year, of course).
Lesson 1: Yes, you can have a few things but be realistic about why you want them. I think a try-on would be in order first, but it's okay to wear things that simply make you feel vibrant and sexy. Something that inspires a feeling of vacation. In my current closet, my very favorite things make me feel just that way.
Next question: Does Lohmans offer a 6 month layaway?

Friday, July 6, 2012

Making Due

Day 188

Summer has hit hard and I am loving the extreme heat. We are lucky enough to have a beach in our neighborhood so much time is spent in swimsuits. I have 3 decent swimsuits and an additional one if I lose enough of my middle to wear it. One of my three has been a problem lately and I was dreading the thought of being reduced to 2 suits.
The center section where the cups meet is not attached and they tend to spread apart enough for frequent wardrobe malfunctions. Normally, I would simply retire it and buy 2 to replace it. Instead, I had to find a way to (in the words of the great Tim Gunn) "make it work."
I dug out a needle and strong thread, some beads and a charm and ...
Voila! The cups will no longer spread apart!
And, it's much cuter than before!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Trying to Get a Man to Understand

Sometimes, it's all about how you present it ...

Thanks to my sister-in-law for this excellent comic!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Half Way There!

Day 184

Woo Hoo! I am officially half way through my one year challenge to refrain from buying clothes, shoes and accessories! Take it from me, a year is a very, very long time. I haven't put into numbers what I have saved but it has been quite a bit.

I am starting to look ahead to next year. How will I be changed? Will I be changed? Will I simply roll back into my old ways come January? I can tell you this: the desire is still there. We had friends and family to the lake yesterday and I spent a good amount of time pining for a certain sparkle-trimmed swimsuit cover worn by one of our guests. And her flip-flops.

I think the next six months will be spent determining how I will proceed post-challenge. I have contemplated limits, either by item or by dollar. I am thinking about a "do you really need this" check list system (I don't think it would last long). Good thing I still have half way to go.